Some tips from the staff room on how to be a great Head Teacher

I have never been, nor do I desire to be a Headteacher. There are so many attributes that you need for this job that I have either not got, nor  do I want to learn. I couldn’t take the angry parents, badly behaved pupils and grumpy staff all day long. All those meetings. The responsibility. The serious face you have to wear most of the working day. The job title is wrong  – you are not a Head Teacher, because you don’t teach anymore. what’s the point of getting into education and then not being in the classroom?

But I have worked under a few headteachers over my career so far and I know what doesn’t work. So what I offer here is the opposite of that. I have learnt from their mistakes. Unfortunately I am still learning from them.

  1. All that pressure you are under from OFSTED? Filter out as much of it as you can, so that you and your SLT can deal with it. Don’t tell your staff, how they should be doing something BECAUSE OFSTED WILL WANT IT. That is not why any of your teachers teach. It will piss them off.
  2. That 3 day a year compassionate leave? Don’t let them know you count up how many are being taken. I can count on 2 fingers all the staff I know who have taken advantage of compassionate leave. If you give someone the time off because their family life demands it, you will be paid back 10 fold over the rest of the tenure at your school
  3. After school meetings and parents evenings? Don’t scrimp on the biscuits and tea. What percentage of the school’s annual budget would it cost to provide these necessities once a week to all staff?
  4. Your union reps are a huge resource. Give them 30 mins a week off timetable, schedule a regular meeting and I promise you staff/HT communication will improve dramatically
  5. The staff room at lunch and break times? stay out – apart from end of term farewells and the like. Its not that staff don’t like you, its that they need to unwind and have a good moan and they cannot do that if you pop your head around the door to see someone a few times a week.
  6. Dont allow your new SLT to start a new strategy until the previous good idea is settled in. Change is good but only if you allow the schemes to have a proper effect.
  7. Now being a head teacher is an often thankless task, but don’t forget what it is like being a teacher. Don’t begin to believe that their job is easy compared to yours, don’t forget how draining a full day in the classroom in front of 30 of the demanding blighters is, don’t forget how much teachers want to get it perfectly right each lesson BUT NEVER DO SO, don’t forget about the non existence of breathing space in your day and the lack of control you have over when you can STEP OFF THE HURTLING HAMSTER WHEEL to make a cup of tea or go to the loo, but most of all don’t forget how no one tells a teacher what a good job they are doing, how no pupil will leave a classroom and say “thank you, I really learnt well in your class Miss”, how no parent will ever ring up just to say how pleased they are with the progress their child is making in your class, how OFSTED only want to find fault and how even the best teachers with a great lesson plan can find it all falling about around their ears for no fathomable reason. And as a result of all this not forgetting, take time in your day to support, praise and thank your teachers for the effort and sacrifice they are making every day in your school to find better and better ways for their pupils to learn. For if you don’t say well done chances are no one else will. And if you do say well done it will mean so much and your teacher will go home with a smile on their face and come in the next day and even better teacher. That 30 seconds of praise will be the best investment in school improvement you make all year.

And you will notice that I didn’t use the adjective “outstanding” in the title as that word has been so discredited in UK education now

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5 thoughts on “Some tips from the staff room on how to be a great Head Teacher

  1. Brilliant, tweeted the link, great advice for all HTs.
    Mind you, with PRP etc. we mustn’t forget that sometimes they need our support as well. They are under an awful lot of pressure at the moment, like you I could never do that job.

  2. Some good advice there, as an ex head I would like to think I did many of those. You would have to ask my staff. I would add that a head teacher should have a strong focus on teaching and learning and what actually happens in classrooms. Realise that the real function of a school is learning, not much else. Be evidence based, wherever possible, but do allow staff to experiment with ideas they are interested in exploring, even if they seem a little suspect at first. Look for outcomes as good measures of the effectiveness of any innovation. The one about ensuring a development had had time to embed is really important. My rule was only three new things per year, at most. Use data to show you what is happening. Seek a real picture of what happens in your school, what it is really like for students and for teachers and for the caretaker, dinner staff etc.

    Biscuits do matter, as well.

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